Header: Nicolas Lambert and a composition of raspberry delicacies
Fresh from receiving the accolade of Asia’s Best Pastry Chef 2018, sponsored by Valrhona, Caprice’s Nicolas Lambert talks to 50 Best about future plans, family and advice for young chefs.
When he celebrated his 30th birthday earlier this month, Nicolas Lambert didn’t imagine he was about to become the youngest ever recipient of a Best Pastry Chef Award for 50 Best Restaurants – even younger than Jordi Roca, who won the inaugural title for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2014 at the age of 36. But although he looks younger than his years, Lambert has been working towards this moment for 15 years and says his advice to aspiring chefs is to take time and be patient.
“I waited nine years for my first position as chef de partie at Hotel Plaza Athénée and 12 years for my first position as chef,” Lambert says. “So don’t go too fast. You need to take time, take it step by step. You need to learn the basics because pastry is like painting – you have blue, white, red, yellow and after that you can play.”
Lambert moved from France to Hong Kong three years ago to take the role as pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel restaurant Caprice, where he works with chef de cuisine Guillaume Galliot. He barely spoke a word of English when he arrived and had never worked in restaurants – only hotels and pastry shops – so he says to be validated by industry experts across Asia feels like a huge achievement.
“My team needed to adapt to my style and my philosophy so when we started, it was very hard,” Lambert says. “But I’m very proud because I started with one team three years ago and now I have exactly the same team.”
As Lambert's award is announced, he celebrates with Guillaume Galliot (standing)
In further cause for celebration, Caprice also re-entered the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year at No.46, having last ranked No.42 in 2015, when chef Fabrice Vulin was at the helm. Galliot and Vulin traded places a year ago, with the latter replacing the former at The Tasting Room in Macao.
Lambert’s intricate pastry creations are the perfect complement to Galliot’s French cuisine, served in an opulent but relaxed hotel setting overlooking the Victoria Harbour waterfront. A meal of Galliot’s signature Singapore-inspired crab laksa and roasted pigeon might end with Lambert’s Tahitian and Madagascan mille feuille or a three chocolates dessert.
Chocolate and seasonal fruit are both firm features of Lambert’s pastries, and although his creations may look complex, he says simplicity is the key. “I like to work with seasonal fruits and produce,” he says. “My desserts are very simple. I like to play with three or four textures and no more than three flavours.”
Lambert collects his Asia's Best Pastry Chef Award with Wenceslas Wedrychowski, Area Manager Asia-Pacific for Valrhona
Pastry runs in Lambert’s blood, with his parents’ baking in their hometown of Epinal, northeastern France, luring him in from the age of two. Lambert is married to a fellow pastry chef, and his twin brother, Julien, is set to open a shop in France next month, after working most recently at Patisserie Lac in Nice. Naturally, there were tears when he told his family about the award.
“I’m proud for my parents as they are bakers like me and my brother,” he says. “You don’t do pastry for the money. It’s hard, there are plenty of other jobs that are easier, but we really wanted to do it, and now they are very proud of us.”
Looking forward to his next decade, Lambert says he would like to take on more responsibility and learn management. He aspires to work as executive pastry chef for a hotel, allowing him to oversee everything from afternoon tea to croissants and cakes, and eventually he would like to open his own shop.
The chef has started using his holidays from Caprice to travel the world, most recently visiting Sydney, to give masterclasses in his trade – evidence that for him, pastry has never been just a job, but a lifestyle.
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